China’s defence minister says Tiananmen crackdown was ‘correct’ ahead of 30th anniversary
June 19, 2019 Comments Off on China’s defence minister says Tiananmen crackdown was ‘correct’ ahead of 30th anniversary
Originally published by China Respondent on June 2, 2019
Chinese defence minister Wei Fenghe said Sunday that the deadly crackdown on peaceful protesters in Tiananmen Square 30 years ago was “correct” and that it had ensured years of stability in the country.
Mr Wei was responding to questions posed by the Telegraph at an annual security summit in Singapore.
It is extremely rare for Chinese officials to acknowledge the June 4, 1989 Tiananmen Square protests, which ended when soldiers opened fire on thousands. Even three decades later, the crackdown remains one of the most sensitive topics in China, and is subject to extensive government efforts to erase it from history.
“Everybody is concerned about Tiananmen after 30 years,” Mr Wei said Sunday at the IISS Shangri-La Dialogue. “China under the Communist Party has experienced many changes in those 30 years – how can we say that China did not handle the Tiananmen incident well? There was a conclusion to the incident. The central government took measures to stop that political turbulence.”
“Due to that, China has enjoyed stability and development. If you visit China, you can better understand that part of history.”
In the weeks leading up to the 30th anniversary this Tuesday, Chinese authorities have launched “pre-emptive strikes” by detaining, interrogating, and placing under house arrest former protest leaders and their relatives, according to the Network of Chinese Human Rights Defenders , a coalition of human rights groups.
Mr Wei also defended China’s policies in Xinjiang as “absolutely right,” where US officials estimate three million Uighur Muslims are being held in internment camps. His remarks echoed what the government has said – that the authorities are running “vocational education centres to help these people deradicalise and learn skills to better reintegrate into society.”
Eight former detainees interviewed by the Telegraph however have said they didn’t learn “skills,” and were subjected to physical and psychological torture, such as body-cavity searches, electrocution by cattle prods, and solitary confinement.
In a strong, sweeping speech, a uniformed Mr Wei spoke regarding China’s position, making clear Beijing stood ready to defend its interests on all fronts, from trade to territories to Taiwan.
“On the trade friction started by the US: If the US wants to talk, we will have the door open; if they want to fight, we are ready,” he said.
He also stressed that Huawei didn’t cooperate with the Chinese military, echoing the government’s long-held position despite allegations from the US of espionage risks if nations were to continue using the Chinese telecoms firm’s equipment in its mobile and data networks.
Under Chinese law, even private firms like Huawei are obliged to assist the government.
China will also “fight at all costs” if anyone attempted to separate Taiwan, a democratically self-ruled island that Beijing has long regarded as a runaway renegade province.
He exercised the same hardline tone on issues in the South China Sea, where China has claimed disputed islands as their own, and intimidating US and UK warships when they sail through the region.
Mr Wei is the first defence minister to attend the Shangri-La dialogue since 2011, and met with his counter part, US acting defence secretary Patrick Shanhan on the sidelines Friday.